Aggressive Driving: Causes and How to Act

Are you guilty of aggressive driving? Jump in and find out what scientists know about its causes and some things you can do.
Aggressive Driving: Causes and How to Act

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Aggressive Driving Behavior (ADB) is the name that refers to a broad group of dangerous and aggressive driving styles that lead to serious accidents. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety , 55.7% of fatal traffic accidents are associated with aggressive driving. Today we’ll review its causes and what to do about it.

Indeed, as the evidence points out, driver anger and aggression contribute to increasing the chances of a crash. Aggressive driving is very common, and internal and external variables encourage its development. In the following paragraphs, we’ll show you what scientists know about it and some tips that will be of great benefit to you.

The causes of aggressive driving

Initially, ADB was defined by experts as a syndrome of frustration-driven behaviors that were enabled by the driver’s environment.

These behaviors can evolve into a form of instrumental aggression, which allows the frustrated driver to infringe on the rights of other road users. There are many causes of aggressive driving, although we’ll review the most important ones below.

The pressure of time

A study published in Accident Analysis & Prevention in 2017 found that time pressure is a risk factor for road aggressiveness. Drivers who were exposed to greater time pressure (for example, being late for work) exhibited more anger behaviors.

But this isn’t the only thing. Those in such a situation are also more likely to:

  • Select higher speeds
  • Accelerate faster after the change from red to green lights
  • Make left turns when oncoming traffic is near
  • Pass a slower vehicle
  • Run a yellow light rather than slowing down

All of these variables can lead to disapproval from other drivers, which in turn can increase the level of rage behind the wheel. Time pressure is then associated with a higher risk of aggressive driving.

Frustration and accumulated anger

An article published in Accident Analysis & Prevention in 2015 suggested that the response to aggressive driving may be a cumulative factor.

The researchers found that transient anger in a specific time period is affected by the occurrence of frustrating events, trait anger, and anger experienced in the prior time period.

Those who’ve dealt with frustrating and angry events immediately before driving develop aggressive attitudes behind the wheel.

Personality traits

Aggressive driving is more common in men
A higher frequency of aggressive driving has been associated with men in comparison to women.

A study published in Traffic Injury Prevention in 2021 found a causal relationship between aggressive driving and personality traits. Those who tend to get angry or angry easily in other contexts tend to do so behind the wheel as well.

But this isn’t all. The researchers also found that male drivers were 2.57 times more likely to engage in aggressive driving.

Other data that complement the above are the fact that behaviors of this type decrease with age. On average, a driver’s tendency to engage in aggressive driving decreased by 26% for each year behind the wheel.

Married people, likewise, are less prone to this type of attitude. People who are calmer and more collected away from the road are less likely to drive aggressively.

Other variables that affect the process are the weather, road conditions, the reckless behavior of other drivers, the state of lucidity due to drug or alcohol intake, slow traffic, and one’s own ability to drive.

Aggressive driving is often multifactorial, so it responds to several of these triggers.

Tips to avoid aggressive driving

Aggressive driving is a common problem
If you have a tendency to become angry while driving, it’s important to take some preventive measures to avoid problems.

As there’s a greater risk of accidents, compromising one’s own integrity and that of other drivers, and exposing oneself to fines and other similar consequences, it’s crucial to learn to control aggressiveness when driving.

There are many things you can do about it, and all of them are easy to implement. Let’s see a list of the most important ones.

  • Carefully review the current traffic regulations: Knowing what you can and can’t do and the associated fines for certain behaviors will encourage you to lean toward a more respectful driving style.
  • Plan your outing in advance: This way, you avoid leaving in a rush, as this can lead to episodes of stress and aggression. Take into account the possible events that may slow you down (red lights, traffic jams, and so on) to include them in the time it will take you to travel from point A to point B.
  • Identify alternative routes: If the specific conditions of a route cause you a certain degree of stress, it may be wiser to consider alternative routes. Even if it takes you longer to reach the final site, you may find greater peace and tranquility in them.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and doing drugs while driving: Pointing this out seems obvious, but the truth is that despite its consequences, millions of people drive every day under the influence of these substances. When you’re going to drive, don’t drink alcohol and don’t experiment with recreational drugs either.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep if you’re going on a long trip: Not getting adequate rest can make you more irritable behind the wheel. On average, try to get 8 hours of sleep each night without interruptions.
  • Don’t take other drivers’ actions personally: This is a common mistake that leads to increased aggression ratings. Stay away from aggressive drivers and don’t make eye contact with them or start a verbal argument.

You simply need to apply a series of habits to reduce aggressiveness at the wheel. If you can’t maintain them over time or they’re not effective, consider visiting a psychology professional.

Do this especially if your aggressiveness, anger, and impatience also manifest themselves in other moments of your life. Remember that prudence when driving is essential, as you’re not only compromising your life and that of those who travel with you but that of other drivers on the road as well.

  • Adavikottu A, Velaga NR. Analysis of factors influencing aggressive driver behavior and crash involvement. Traffic Inj Prev. 2021;22(sup1):S21-S26.
  • Danaf M, Abou-Zeid M, Kaysi I. Modeling anger and aggressive driving behavior in a dynamic choice-latent variable model. Accid Anal Prev. 2015 Feb;75:105-18.
  • Fitzpatrick CD, Samuel S, Knodler MA Jr. The use of a driving simulator to determine how time pressures impact driver aggressiveness. Accid Anal Prev. 2017 Nov;108:131-138.
  • Shinar, D. Aggressive driving: the contribution of the drivers and the situation. Transportation Research Part F: traffic psychology and behaviour. 1998; 1(2): 137-160.
  • Wickens, C. M., Mann, R. E., Ialomiteanu, A. R., & Stoduto, G. Do driver anger and aggression contribute to the odds of a crash? A population-level analysis. Transportation research part F: traffic psychology and behavior. 2016; 42: 389-399.

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